What do you imagine under the term full-fledged virtual reality? Maybe a physically accurate photorealistic virtual environment sounded by real sounds, in which you can move freely and behave according to habits, right? To achieve this, there are high performance requirements that all-in-one VR headsets such as Oculus Quest 2 are not able to fill. The solution for reaching full-fledged realistics VR experience is a computing streaming - today often from a local computing station (computer) via cable or over the air - locally through WiFi, or remotely (from the cloud) thanks to 5G networks bringing fast and stable internet.
Realism is not just about performance
Sufficient device performance is only a basic prerequisite on which the processor, graphics card, memory, and other components can rely when preparing resources reproduced to the user by output hardware components such as displays, speakers, and other controls. Unfortunately, even the best components do not improve low-quality inputs and processing - using quality graphics, 3D models, proper optimization processes and suitable game engine is just a basic premise for developing realistic VR applications.
The logical way to use the external computing power from PC in VR headset is through a cable. There are 3 options:
- The simple connection of the computer and the VR headset with a cable - the advantage is simplicity, the disadvantage are the difficulties associated with a free cable which usually makes user's movement uncomfortable. This may result in a very poor user experience destroying the feeling of realism.
- Cable routing through a guide arm located on the ceiling - An elegant solution, but allowing use only in a limited space defined by the area of the designated virtual reality studio.
- By placing the computer in the form of a backpack on the user's back - the advantage is the freedom of use within the space, the disadvantageis logically reduced user comfort associated by heavy, loud and heat generating PC station on the user's back.
Personally, I don't consider any method containing a cable to be optimal. My preference is to stream performance wireless through an air - either via 5G mobile or WiFi. This article is just about connecting via WiFi, via Virtual desktop application. This connection combines the ease of use of all-in-one VR headsets while eliminating their low performance , that otherwise making it impossible to run high-quality VR applications and games on these headsets. With streamed performance, the display quality is limited only by the end hardware. However, there is a disadvantage here as well - all-in-one VR headsets, which are necessary to use in this case (own HW and SW enabling connection to a streaming source), often do not contain the highest quality displays. On the other hand, these headsets are the most widespread, and thus VR applications designed in this way are easy to use by a wide range of users.
How to display a VR application running on a PC via Virtual Desktop in the VR headset?
The Virtual Desktop application is a kind of bridge between a computer and all-in-one VR headset using the Internet and WiFi network protocol for the transmission of information. The recommended frequency of the router is 5GHZ, anyway, regular router using the 2.4GHZ frequency band works in a limited extent as well. So you can continue not just in reading reading the article regardless the router you use.
- Purchase the Virtual Desktop application according to the desired usage in your favorite store (for example Oculus store ) and install it to your VR headset. Next, go at Virtual Desktop application official website and download and install the Streamer app software on your streaming computer.
- On your PC, run the "Virtual Desktop Streamer" application installed in step one and set your own preferred settings for the software. Then launch the Virtual Desktop application in your VR headset. The first time you launch the app, you will need to find and connect to the streaming computer (the application allows you to switch between several streaming stations). To eliminate potential issues related network configuration, It is ideal to use the same WiFi network (connection to the same router) for creating the link. Anytime later they will be linked automatically (if they are accessible each other).
Now the application allows you to use your VR headset as a kind of wireless monitor. However, you will not enjoy the VR experience here - everything you run will run in 2D.
How to launch an application in VR mode in Virtual Desktop?
First of all, only applications with VR support can be run in full virtual reality. If you are a developer of VR applications, VR support is usually not processed by filled any "VR" checkbox in your game engine, but by activating a VR library (in the case of Oculus it is the Oculus VR plugin in Unreal Engine, or the Oculus library in Unity). Unfortunately, even a file with active VR support runs only in 2D view when launched through Virtual Desktop in a common way - it's because VR mode is not automatically initialized by Virtual Desktop Application currently. Even adding additional launch parametres to the application .exe file will not probably help. To simple initialize applications launch in VR mode, it is necessary to launch them through an application that initializes VR mode automatically. One such is the Virtual Desktop VR Patch .
- Install the Virtual Desktop VR Patch on your VR headset via the SideQuest program installed on your PC. This Plugin allows you to stream Oculus Rift and SteamVR games from the Steam and Oculus desktop applications to VR headset in VR mode.
- We will launch our application / game package using SteamVR. To do this, you need to install Steam on your computer and sign in with your Steam account.
- Launch the "Virtual Desktop" application in the VR headset and select the "Launch SteamVR" option on the left. We will be prompted to install the SteamVR extension on a computer (PC must have opened Steam). We will confirm and install.
- We will add our application package (the game we want to run in VR mode) to the Steam library by "Add a Game" option located on the bottom gray bar of the Steam window on the left. From the options, select "Add a Non-Steam Game ..." and then select the .exe file of your Windows application (.exe game launchable file).
- Put a headeset on your head, in the "Virtual Desktop" application connect to Steam (option "launch SteamVR"), in which open menu screeen (either through UI or with a menu button located on the left hand controller), via which open the Steam game library (it may be necessary to select options "browse all" to see all games). Then in "games" section there should be attached our package linked in the point 4. On launch it starts automatically in VR mode.